Dimethylglycine dehydrogenase (EC 184.108.40.206) and sarcosine dehydrogenase (EC 220.127.116.11) are flavoproteins which catalyze the oxidative demethylation of dimethylglycine to sarcosine and sarcosine to glycine, respectively. During these reactions tightly bound tetrahydropteroylpentaglutamate (H4PteGlu5) is converted to 5,10-methylene tetrahydropteroylpentaglutamate (5,10-CH2-H4PteGlu5), although in the absence of H4PteGlu5, formaldehyde is produced. Single turnover studies using substrate levels of the enzyme (2.3 microM) showed pseudo-first-order kinetics, with apparent first-order rate constants of 0.084 and 0.14 s-1 at 23 and 48.3 microM dimethylglycine, respectively, for dimethylglycine dehydrogenase and 0.065 s-1 at 47.3 microM sarcosine for sarcosine dehydrogenase. The rates were identical in the absence or presence of bound tetrahydropteroylglutamate (H4PteGlu). Titration of the enzymes with substrate under anaerobic conditions did not disclose the presence of an intermediate semiquinone. The effect of dimethylglycine concentration upon the rate of the dimethylglycine dehydrogenase reaction under aerobic conditions showed nonsaturable kinetics suggesting a second low-affinity site for the substrate which increases the enzymatic rate. The Km for the high-affinity active site was 0.05 mM while direct binding for the low-affinity site could not be measured. Sarcosine and dimethylthetin are poor substrates for dimethylglycine dehydrogenase and methoxyacetic acid is a competitive inhibitor at low substrate concentrations. At high dimethylglycine concentrations, increasing the concentration of methoxyacetic acid produces an initial activation and then inhibition of dimethylglycine dehydrogenase activity. When these compounds were added in varying concentrations to the enzyme in the presence of dimethylglycine, their effects upon the rate of the reaction were consistent with the presence of a second low-affinity binding site on the enzyme which enhances the reaction rate. When sarcosine is used as the substrate for sarcosine dehydrogenase the kinetics are Michaelis-Menten with a Km of 0.5 mM for sarcosine. Also, methoxyacetic acid is a competitive inhibitor of sarcosine dehydrogenase with a Ki of 0.26 mM. In the absence of folate, substrate and product determinations indicated that 1 mol of formaldehyde and of sarcosine or glycine were produced for each mole of dimethylglycine or sarcosine consumed with the concomitant reduction of 1 mol of bound FAD.